The five players who start for the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team against Saint Martin’s on Thursday night will look familiar.
Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, a sophomore, started every game last season as a freshman. Andrew Andrews is a fourth-year junior. Mike Anderson is a fifth-year senior. Jernard Jarreau, back and healthy after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the season opener last season, is a fourth-year junior. And forward Shawn Kemp — stronger than ever, coach Lorenzo Romar said — is a senior.
So the personnel, largely, is the same. It’s the end result — not of Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. exhibition game, but of the 2014-15 season – that the Huskies hope looks a little different.
Romar said he already sees differences between this squad and last season’s group that finished with a 17-15 overall record and a 9-9 mark in Pac-12 play, and missed the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive season.
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Namely: the Huskies are “sneaky old.”
“This team is definitely tougher,” Romar said. “This team definitely has more of an edge to it. We’re tougher, and we’re older, and I think we have more experience.
“Our roles are further along – in terms of each guy knowing where they are and what we see – than it’s been in a long time.”
Williams-Goss (13.4 points, 4.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds per game last season) and Andrews (12.3 ppg) are UW’s co-captains and top returning scorers.
“Just the vibe and energy – the competitiveness is just higher,” Williams-Goss said. “I think you had a lot of guys on the team last year that … we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to accomplish, and a lot of those guys are back this year that are going to play big roles. So we kind of carried over the disappointment from last year and let it fuel is this offseason.”
The Huskies lost star guard and leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, who averaged 18.3 points per game, became UW’s all-time leading 3-point shooter and now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers.
But Romar is cautiously optimistic that the Huskies will be able to replace Wilcox’s outside shooting presence with a combination of players such as Andrews, Anderson, junior-college transfer Quevyn Winters and freshman Donaven Dorsey (Timberline High in Lacey).
“Every practice, every intrasquad scrimmage, shooting drills, we keep saying, ‘Is this real?’ Because coming in, we had doubts in our mind of how good of a shooting team we were going to be,” Romar said, “but up to this point, there’s been multiple guys make 3s.”
Against Saint Martin’s, Williams-Goss said, “our goal is to never be outcompeted. Our goal is to try to reach our potential. (Thursday), we just want to come out and, for 40 minutes, play as hard as we can play, play the right way, (and) play the way we’ve been practicing. For us, whether it’s an exhibition game or a real game — it’s a real game. It’s 40 minutes, it’s refs, there’s fans. So we’re going to go out there and give it our all.”
The Huskies begin the regular season with a Nov. 14 game against South Carolina State at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.